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Giant Archaeological Trove Found Via Google Earth 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-to-go-outside-anyway dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Using detailed satellite imagery available through Google Earth, Australian researchers have discovered what may be tombs that are thousands of years old in remote stretches of Saudi Arabia (abstract). 'Kennedy scanned 1240 square kilometers in Saudi Arabia using Google Earth. From their birds-eye view he found 1977 potential archaeological sites, including 1082 "pendants" — ancient tear-drop shaped tombs made of stone. According to Kennedy, aerial photography of Saudi Arabia is not made available to most archaeologists, and it's difficult, if not impossible, to fly over the nation. "But, Google Earth can outflank them," he says. Kennedy confirmed that the sites were vestiges of an ancient life — rather than vegetation or shadow - by asking a friend in Saudi Arabia, who is not an archaeologist, to drive out to two of the sites and photograph them. By comparing the images with structures that Kennedy has seen in Jordan, he believes the sites may be up to 9000 years old, but ground verification is needed."
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Giant Archaeological Trove Found Via Google Earth

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  • Was it smart? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:06PM (#35106920) Homepage

    To post this on the web? Potential for grave robbers is incredible in that area. And those may be extremely interesting from an archeological point of view.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:26PM (#35107058)

      Exactly, now all of Saudi Arabia knows that there are potential archeological dig sites ...... somewhere in Saudi Arabia ...... near some rocks. I'd imagine the whole country is out right now digging everywhere there's rocks.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by molo (94384)

        And half of them will strike oil.

        -molo

      • by Phoghat (1288088)
        From TFA:

        Ground views confirmed what Kennedy was seeing on Google

        A pile of rocks

    • by Suki I (1546431)

      To post this on the web? Potential for grave robbers is incredible in that area. And those may be extremely interesting from an archeological point of view.

      Beloved knows how to drive a bulldozer and I know how to be cute and distracting. Private antiquities auctions, here we come!

    • Re:Was it smart? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by elsurexiste (1758620) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:29PM (#35107086) Journal

      If they are over 9000 (*sigh*) years old, and in a desert, chances are whatever they could steal won't have much value, even on the black market. A crude knife that seems made on your backyard won't land you any money unless you could show that's from an archaeological site, and we aren't dealing with honorable people here.

    • The paper describes the region as being 17 km by 72.8 km, and there are photographs/screenshots from Google Earth at the end. It's also described as being along the Western side of the peninsula, "similar to Jordan". I'm pretty sure that's enough information to find the region in Google Earth in about half an hour.
      • Eh? Where are these screenshots of which you speak? Not on the article, certainly -- and as I don't have access to the scientific paper, I don't know if you mean that the screenshots are in there.

        • That is most definitely what I mean. Being a university student makes it pretty easy to read articles on Science Direct. I said "the paper," did I not? (Technically, it's still just an "accepted manuscript," also.)
    • by blair1q (305137)

      so what do you want us to do? ban grave-googling?

    • Re:Was it smart? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dnwq (910646) on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:37PM (#35107632)
      More importantly, Saudi's official brand of Wahhabism dislikes anything that may be potentially idolatrous and proactively destroys historical monuments. Buildings found via excavation in Mecca have been bulldozed by royal edict.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Nyder (754090)

        More importantly, Saudi's official brand of Wahhabism dislikes anything that may be potentially idolatrous and proactively destroys historical monuments. Buildings found via excavation in Mecca have been bulldozed by royal edict.

        That's because those old building had something that Saudi's officials fear. Probably birth documents saying Saudi's are all Jewish or something. One of the lost tribes. Come to think of it, they are pretty rich...

      • That reminds me of the news stories of Taliban blowing up Buddha statues.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)
        Yep, this is exactly why it was stupid to reveal these findings. They should have just deleting all their data and kept quiet, because now the same thing will happen to these as happened to the Buddha statues in Afghanistan.
      • This is one case where security through obscurity might actually work.

        As long as only the white hats knew about the exploit, they could go there and secretly study the sites. Now that it's public knowledge, it will be a race between the grave robbers and the fanatic muslims to destroy the sites.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          Just a tip, it's not wise to do anything in secret in Saudi Arabia--unless you don't want to come back. Even entering the country is dangerous enough for an outsider, much less doing something this big without Saud approval.

    • I was just thinking the same thing , almost funny that now we are going to get all sorts of people digging around in the desert to find xxx, and be the first to say they found it. I guess though if anything is found, it belongs to the country it is found in, and would go to a museum (should the one's finding it be ethical|).

  • Are the coordinates available? I'd enjoy seeing the primary source, such as it is.
    • I hope not. I wish people had the good sense to keep a lid on this sort of thing. If you publish this kind of data the bottom-feeders descend on them and they are usually looted out much faster than they can be ever be excavated. I know the looters have access to Google's services too but there is no reason to make it any easier for them than it has to be.
  • by Luthwyhn (527835) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:11PM (#35106936)

    From the "confirmation photo" in TFA, all I was able to confirm is that... yes, there are rocks in Saudi Arabia.

  • he believes the sites may be up to 9000 years old

    UP TO 9000?

    That's not so impressive...

    • He originally got over 9000 but crushed his scouter, going

      "What, 9000? There's no way that be right!"
    • When 9000 years old you reach, look as good you will not!

  • by Coraon (1080675) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:15PM (#35106966)
    If you find the ark, don't look in it. Seriously, don't look into it.
    • How will you know if it's the ark if you don't look in it?
      • by geekoid (135745)

        You let it's locations 'leak' to the Nazis. and once they are on it's trail, you send in you own guy to get it. Eventually someones face will melt.

        Then you have it taken away be 'Top Men'

        G

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:34PM (#35107130)

          But... if you know the ark doubles as a Nazi face melter then it makes more sense to let the Germans take it back to Berlin and open it during a big ceremony for all the top Nazi brass which was their original plan until you sent some idiot with a fedora and a bullwhip in and screwed everything up!

          • by ekgringo (693136)
            Let me ask you this - Would you be more comfortable opening the Ark in Berlin - for the Fuhrer - and finding out only then if the sacred pieces of the Covenant are inside? Knowing, only then, whether you have accomplished your mission and obtained the one, true Ark?
        • by spongman (182339)

          yeah, but if it's just a box full of jelly beans and the nazis eat them all without sharing... where would you be then, eh?

      • by physicsphairy (720718) on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:01PM (#35107314) Homepage

        How will you know if it's the ark if you don't look in it?

        You won't, it will just remain both the ark and not the ark. But you can still sell it on ebay as a 50% superposition of the greatest archaeological find of all time.

      • How will you know if it's the ark if you don't look in it?

        You shake it and see if the cat yowls.

        In other words, until you look in it is the ark and not the ark.

  • ...I have an idea for another Indiana Jones sequel.
  • Couldn't tear drop shaped structures made of stones also be naturally occurring in a riverbed or flood plain? I won't believe these are actually tombs until someone excavates them. Dudes, you're getting excited about a pile of stones!
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:13PM (#35107418) Journal
      Get some knowledge, bro.

      There have been analogs at other sites that have been explored and have been discovered to have been tombs.

      Here's a nice article that explains a lot, with mention of these tombs, and tombs like them, near the end. The pictures help make it obvious that these could not be naturally occurring.

      Pendant tombs (including crescent, teardrop, and keyhole tombs) are a pretty well-known phenomenon.
    • I don't recall ever seeing tear drop shapes in naturally occurring river beds. I've seen quite a few dry ones here in Australia that are over 30 000 years old, none of them have tear drop shapes. You get circular shapes (billabongs) and curves, but the tip of a tear drop shape is far from natural in river courses.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by geekoid (135745)

      "Dudes, you're getting excited about a pile of stones!"
      Dude, It's archeology.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        My point being, it's not the pile of stones that is significant, it's what is (possibly) inside. Should they be carefully excavated? Of course. But I'm not going to get excited until they find something of archeological value buried underneath those stones. Some of them may very well be the equivalent of Capone's Vaults.
        • I suppose you'll also determine what is of value? The tombs themselves are of great value, excavated or not.

          Then again, you don't seem to care about the impact this will have, whether they contain a few bones or the riches of a tribe, on our current written history. This could change quite a few text books.

          I suppose unless it's a new Android release or a new processor you really don't care right?

  • It is very interesting to find such a site this way--but the place where they were found is probably among the worst.

    As I read it,,,, S.A. has no normal tourist industry at all (leaving little hope of outsiders to ever see the sites or anything found there) ....

    ....and despite having the government wealth to support cultural efforts--since the rise of Islam, they have shown little interest in preserving anything not connected with the Islamic faith.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Saudi Arabia has a HUGE tourism industry... every year it is visited by millions of people on their Haj to Mecca. Connect these sites to the Prophet (peace be with him) and you'd have more money than you know what to do with to examine these piles of rocks. You'd be surprised at how much money people spend to bring back souvenirs from Haj...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CRCulver (715279)
        At least some of these tombs predate Muhammad by centuries. Saudis have never had much interest in such sites, and there is a sense that nothing good can come from the era they term jahilia ("ignorance"). Most archaeological study of pre-Islamic Arabia is carried out by Europeans and North Americans.
      • by corbettw (214229)

        So you remember to say your magic words when reciting the name of your god, but have no compunction about making a buck of him. You must be an American.

        • by Locke2005 (849178)
          He's not a God, he's a prophet. And he's not my God, I'm a Buddhist.
          • by corbettw (214229)

            According to their own definition, he's not a god. But according to any objective reading of their history he's at least a legendary hero and a lesser god. How else do you explain some of the things he supposedly did of a supernatural nature?

            Note: the "god" is only capitalized when referring to a given supreme being as the only god in the universe (or even multiverse). It is grammatically incorrect to randomly capitalize a word that doesn't refer to a specific entity.

            • Prophets do supernatural things- that's part of what makes them credible messengers. Moses did some pretty wild stuff in Exodus. Would you argue he was a god too?

              • by corbettw (214229)

                Using the same definition, yes. Just like Hercules, Gilgamesh, Siddhartha Gautama, and the First Emperor of China, legendary heroes who perform feats that no mere mortal can tend to attract a certain kind of following, or cult. Which gives them status equivalent to a god.

                • The "power" of prophets is not inherent. It is merely borrowed from God. Hercules is very different because he was supposedly an actual demi-god, being half god and half man. That concept is heretical to Muslims, who don't believe Jesus was anything other than a man (Quran 112:1-4).

                  If you're going to skew definitions to suit your argument you'll find yourself without anyone to talk to very quickly.

                  • by corbettw (214229)

                    I'm not "skewing definitions to suit my argument". My argument is that it is irrelevant what someone says is the tenet of their belief, what is important is what that belief appears to be to an outside, disinterested observer. It doesn't matter if you believe your car is green if someone else looks at it and says "no, it's metallic green with blue highlights".

                    You're obviously confused about what this conversation is about, as evidenced by your continued capitalizing of a generic word ("god"). Would you agre

        • by Monchanger (637670) on Friday February 04, 2011 @06:58PM (#35107822) Journal

          Revered as both are by Muslims, the prophet, Muhammad, is not the same as Allah. You're confusing Islam with the nonsense that is Christian dogma.

          If you're aiming for self-righteously arrogant, at least get your facts straight.

          As for "making a buck off him", that doesn't apply to providing an actual service. If you fake evidence of historical fact then yeah you're going to hell. Otherwise, you're just another businessman selling t-shirts and key chains.

          • by Locke2005 (849178)
            As I non-Muslim, I used terms intended to be respectful of Islam. I would ask you as a non-Christian to please do the same. Let me remind you that Muslims also believe in Jesus the prophet and in the God of the Old Testament. And that Islam, despite being somewhat more logical (e.g. not preaching the concept of the "Trinity", which is nowhere in the bible), also has it's share of dogmatic interpreters.
            • Oh you don't have to tell me- I'm well aware of how idiotic and destructive some parts of Islamic interpretation have been. Same for a certain amount of Jewish thought. All religion shares in the nonsensical especially as it gets further removed from original texts. But I stand by my point of view that the trinity tops it all from my point of view from outside of any faith. If somebody want to launch into a rant reciting dogma they're just as free to do so.

              Respect for religion is very overrated. So lon

              • by Locke2005 (849178)
                The point is that insulting someone else's religion serves no constructive purpose. You obviously are not going to change their mind or educate them by doing so. It can only serve to hurt their feelings and stoke the fires of hatred between different faiths -- so why do it?
                • Jesus fucking christ. So I used the word 'nonsense'. Who cares? If that was the main point of my post or the thread you'd have something to keep replying about but it really wasn't. I wasn't trying to teach a Christian about their own dogma but pointed out a fundamental fact differentiating it from Islam and more importantly, why selling religious trinkets isn't necessarily sacriligious regardless of the faith to which they pertain. Give it a rest and quit trying to get me to placate fundamentalists wh

          • by corbettw (214229)

            See my above comment to Locke2005. The character of Mohammad (as distinct from the historical person) serves the purpose of a lesser god in the Muslim religion. Just because they refuse to acknowledge that fact doesn't make it untrue.

            • Stating that something silly is a fact doesn't make it true. It just makes you sound silly.

              • by corbettw (214229)

                Stating that something silly is a fact doesn't make it true. It just makes you sound silly.

                c.f., your post.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        A large people that go are poor and spend nothing. Connect these site to there voodoo master, zombie guy or whatever and all you ahve is people who won't spend any money wondering around in the desert.

        I will restrain myself and not state the obvious joke.

        • I will restrain myself and not state the obvious joke.

          Come on, man! Why would jew leave us hanging like that?!

  • Content-free article (Score:4, Informative)

    by jpvlsmv (583001) on Friday February 04, 2011 @05:38PM (#35107160) Homepage Journal

    Having RTFA, there is absolutely no content in there.

    There's no example photograph of what they saw through google earth (just an inscrutable picture of a pile of rocks), nothing about the history of why ancient peoples would have built this pattern of structure, not even a link to Wikipedia about anything.

    Ok, well, they do link to google.com/earth, but seriously, could they have written less content?

    --Joe

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Well, no, it's not content-free.

      It just doesn't have the eye candy you were looking for.

      For that, you'll have to pay the publishers who organized the peer-reviewing and put the paper in context for its scientify community.

      But maybe if you try real hard you can Google it from space...

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Well, no, it's not content-free.

        It just doesn't have the eye candy you were looking for.

        For that, you'll have to pay the publishers who organized the peer-reviewing and put the paper in context for its scientify community.

        But maybe if you try real hard you can Google it from space...

        Its the only way to be sure.

  • Göbekli Tepe

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6bekli_Tepe [wikipedia.org]

    11,500 years ago

    9000 years? phhh;

    Boston Tea Party: December 16, 1773

    age of the universe:13.75 ±0.17 billion years

    Just to keep things in perspective?

    CC.
    • by foobsr (693224)
      Must have been a real American fucktard with no sense of history who modded this down.

      CC.
      • by foobsr (693224)
        Another fucktard. Too glad I need not post here.

        CC.
      • I think you're missing the point of the article. It's not the age of the finding, but how they did it. As it says in the article, "it's impossible to know whether we have found a Bedouin structure that was made 150 years ago, or 10,000 years ago" without actually going there.

  • I tried to drag the little guy in Google Maps over the location but it wouldn't show me anything. I'm just curious if someone knows if Google is down?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So one post says it's dangerous to reveal this because thieves will ransack the sites, and another posts that says there is no useful information in the article. We have achieved equilibrium.

  • "From their birds-eye view he found 1977 potential archaeological sites"

    The mass of glitter balls as seen from orbit thus proved the existence of the Lost Disco of Jeddah.

  • Cthulhu fhtagn!

  • by pinguwin (807635) on Friday February 04, 2011 @07:42PM (#35108152)
    Wonder how well this is going to go with the Saudi government. They are pretty touchy about archaeology that pre-dates the Islamic era. For those earlier times, they use the term, IIRC, "time of ignorance" and are reluctant to allow too much knowledge about past times, especially if it is something more advanced, such as a great trading city. I have read about (and the reference escapes me now) where they were ok as long as the research stayed obscure (journals) but once it became more widely know (i.e. popular press), they started to cut off access to the sites. A "treasure trove" might contradict "ignorance".
  • "Given enough eyeballs, all tombs are shallow."

    steveha

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein

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